free website hit counter
What Happened to James Chasse: 2006-10-15

Friday, October 20, 2006

About Officer Humphreys

from Jack Bogadanski's Blog, with 34 responses

Here's a comment that came in today that needs to be moved up to a post of its own. It's about Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys, the central figure in the violent death at police hands of James Chasse Jr. Portland attorney Travis Eiva writes:
Last year, I represented a young man in a Federal police misconduct case against the Portland Police. The claims in that case alleged that Officer Humphreys and three other Portland officers stood over a 19 year old man and beat him with a flashlight, a steel baton, boots, fists, pepper spray, and three tazer deployments. Officer Humphreys struck the young man across the shins and midsection with a steel baton about 30 times during the incident. I certainly would not object to someone calling Officer Humphreys "overzealous" in his use of force.

All the while the young man screamed for "help." Independent witnesses described the screams as horrific. Independent witnesses stated that the young man did not "resist" the officers and that the young man was simply trying to protect himself from the officer violence. By the way, it was a case of mistaken identity; the young man did not commit an underlying crime to lead to the officer melee.

In March 2006, the city took a sizable judgment against itself on the above case in return for dismissal against the individual officers. City Council reviewed the settlement before it was approved. For me, this settlement brings up two major points when thought about in the context of the Chasse incident:

1. Prior to the Chasse incident, City Council was on notice that there were serious allegations of excessive force againt Officer Humphreys; AND

2.The City has already taken a bullet for Officer Humphreys in the past, i.e. negotiated a deal that protected him from personal culpability for violent actions.

So now I have a couple of questions:

1. What does the City do when it takes a judgment against itself for its more "aggressive" officers? After the judgment, did the City require that Humphreys be re-trained on the use of force or did they just send him back on his next shift?

2. How powerful is the Portland Police Union? Too powerful?

One more thing: Portland Police are trained in many things. They are forced to take a number of mandatory classes, such as shooting guns, executing distraction strikes (i.e. how to make kicks and punches most effective), using steel batons, and using minor traffic violations as a pretext to stop young men who wear their pants too low. Every officer takes classes on the above subject matter. There are also a number of optional classes. Many officers do not take these classes. As of last I was aware, there is an OPTIONAL class on officer contact with mentally ill individuals, that trains the officer in how to appropriately manage interactions with folks who suffer from mental illness. I would bet my dollars against anyone's doughnuts that our Chasse Officers did not sign up for that class. With a certain lawusit to follow the Chasse incident, I wonder how much the City coffers will have to bleed, not to mention mentally ill people brutalized, to make up for this lapse of judgment on the part of police officer training.

Too bad it came in late on a Friday afternoon, when all the dirt seems to come out and the fewest people are paying attention. But I'm sure you'll agree, it's interesting nonetheless.


from The Oregonian

Protect, serve the vulnerable

To James P. Chasse Jr.'s family: My condolences, and I admire your ability to keep advocating for James, even though it has to be very trying. Our most vulnerable community members (the disabled) need people like you to help get the word out and make it known when injustices are perpetrated against the mentally, physically and developmentally disabled.

I have an adult developmentally disabled son who does not make the best choices, can exhibit some strange behaviors and who has been treated poorly and taken advantage of by some people. We have done our best to keep him out of harm's way.

Our community needs to be tolerant of people who are "different." Our most vulnerable community members need to be protected and served.

Oregon City

Police missed clues to Chasse's mental illness

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

As Portland Officer Christopher Humphreys tells it, it never entered his mind that James P. Chasse Jr., the disheveled man he saw shuffling at a street corner and then possibly urinating behind a tree on Sept. 17, suffered from a mental illness.

When Humphreys approached, the man walked off and then ran. Based on his 10 years of law enforcement experience, Humphreys presumed the man was drunk, on drugs, or involved in other criminal activity with a warrant for his arrest.

Even the "absolute sheer terror" he saw in the man's eyes --an expression Humphreys said he had never seen --led the officer to suspect the man possessed drugs or a weapon.

Transcripts of detectives' interviews with the three officers involved in Chasse's death show that none of the three officers suspected Chasse might be mentally ill until well after their knock-down struggle with him.

The police statements, released by Chasse's family, also reveal the inability of anyone to recognize the significant injuries Chasse had suffered until it was too late. One officer said that at no point did he suspect Chasse's repeated screaming was from pain.

They also illustrate the meager sharing of information between the officers, ambulance medics and jail medical staff who dealt with Chasse --a problem Portland Chief Rosie Sizer has vowed to correct.

Chasse, a 42-year-old man who suffered from schizophrenia, sustained multiple rib fractures, some of which punctured his left lung, early in his encounter with police, and died from broad-based blunt force trauma to his chest, an autopsy found.

The following is a narrative, based solely on the officers' account of what occurred. Transcripts of civilian witness accounts, some of which Chasse's family says contradict the police version of events, and all other police reports and investigative reports stemming from the case have not yet been released.

Disheveled man

Officer Humphreys couldn't help but notice the disheveled man, shuffling at the corner about 25 feet away.

Humphreys was assisting a sergeant on an unrelated call Sept. 17 when he spotted the man. Humphreys said he assumed the man was a transient and drunk, maybe waiting for a bus. The man had his back to Humphreys at Northwest 18th Avenue and Everett Street, his legs stiff, rhythmically stepping side to side.

At one point, the man turned and saw the officers. He immediately crossed the street, Humphreys said. The man's unusual behavior, plus the fact he walked away from police made Humphreys suspicious. He suggested to his sergeant and partner that they roll up and talk to him.

Humphreys and his TriMet patrol partner, Multnomah County deputy Brad Burton, drove up to Chasse on Northwest Everett, midway between 14th and 13th avenues. Chasse was on the south side, hunched over, standing by a tree, his backpack at his feet, police said.

"Oh, he's pissin'," Humphreys said to his partner. The officer made note that they were entering the revitalized Pearl District, a high-density area of restaurants and businesses.

Burton stopped the patrol car. Humphreys stepped from the passenger side onto the sidewalk and took two steps towards Chasse, about 10 to 15 feet away. Chasse, his back to police, grabbed his backpack and started to walk eastbound, the officers said.

Burton tried to stop him.

"I was like, 'Hey,' you know, and I whistled at him, or something just to get his attention," Burton said.

Both officers say Chasse turned and made eye contact with them. They were both struck by what Humphreys called Chasse's look of "absolute sheer terror."

The officers said Chasse started running east. Humphreys and Burton chased after him, yelling stop.

Chasse falls

They ran down a slight slope toward the southwest corner of Northwest Everett Street and 13th Avenue. Humphreys said he shoved Chasse down with both his forearms against Chasse's back.

The officers' accounts of what occurred next conflict, but at least one described it as "chaos."

Humphreys said Chasse fell to the ground, and he fell on the sidewalk, right past Chasse. He did a shoulder-roll on his left side, and felt his left hip jam against his flashlight in his back pocket. When he rolled onto his stomach, he said he saw Central Precinct Sgt. Kyle Nice wrestling with Chasse.

Nice, who had pulled ahead of Humphreys and Burton and had tried to cut Chasse off, said he saw Humphreys grab Chasse in a "bear-hug-type" hold and tackle him to the ground. He said Humphreys fell on top of Chasse in the midback area.

Burton said he saw Chasse and Humphreys collide but wasn't sure how they landed. Burton said he struggled to control Chasse's legs as Chasse twisted and turned, kicking and screaming.

Nice said he grabbed Chasse's left arm to pin him to the ground. Humphreys said he got up and grabbed Chasse's right arm, describing Chasse as screaming, kicking and flailing.

"I was yelling get on your stomach, stop fighting, get on your stomach," Humphreys said.

Humphreys yelled at Burton to grab his Taser, but then heard Nice say, 'No, not yet."

Struggle on ground

Nice said he felt a sharp pain on his lower right calf and realized Chasse had bit him. He jerked his leg out from under Chasse's left armpit, yelling at him, "Do not bite me!"

Nice yelled at Chasse to get on his stomach. As they struggled, Nice said Chasse got hold of his right pant leg cuff with his teeth.

"I pulled my right foot back and kicked him in the upper chest," Nice said.

Burton said he punched Chasse "once, maybe more" in the back. He yelled at Chasse to stop resisting. Burton said he placed his Taser to the back of one of Chasse's upper legs, holding it against his urine-soaked jeans. Burton said the Taser had no effect and he reholstered it. At one point, Burton said he dug the knuckle of his right index finger into Chasse's rib to try to get Chasse to give up.

Humphreys said he struck Chasse in the face when he pulled his fist back to avoid getting bitten, and then punched him again in the face with a closed fist. Nice said he put his knee on Chasse's left shoulder blade to pin him down.

Throughout the fight, Chasse uttered what Humphreys called a "blood-curdling" open-mouthed scream, like "Aaah!" and screamed "No" three times.

The officers didn't smell alcohol on Chasse's breath, but now figured he was high, describing him as "wide-eyed," panicked and screaming.

As soon as more officers arrived, Chasse suddenly stopped resisting, the officers said. They were able to handcuff his wrists behind his back. As they rolled Chasse onto his right side, Nice said he immediately noticed Chasse was unconscious.

"His eyes were closed, and I looked and I couldn't tell if he was breathing," Nice said.

Medics arrive

Nice's first thought was cocaine psychosis and called for Code 3 emergency medical at 5:23:04, saying the subject was unconscious, and had been fighting with police.

Just then, Chasse opened his eyes and was breathing, Nice said.

At 5:25 p.m., American Medical Response Ambulance medics arrived, followed by Portland Fire Bureau medics. They checked Chasse's vital signs, including blood pressure, respiration rate and glucose levels.

As they examined Chasse, the officers stepped back. Nice lifted his pant leg to check his bite wound; no skin was broken but he cleaned the area with a wipe. Humphreys walked back to the tree where he first approached Chasse, looking to see if he dropped any drugs.

Humphreys said he found a "white powdery streak" ground into the dirt that he figured might be crack cocaine remnants. He scraped up some granules into a plastic bag.

Nice said he confirmed with the medics that Chasse was medically stable, that he need not be taken to a hospital. Nice said the medics did not relay what, if any, injuries they noted. He said the ambulance driver said he was "probably high" on cocaine.

The AMR medic handed Humphreys a written form to sign.

"I said, 'Well, he's good to go?' And she's like yeah," Humphreys said.

The officers bound Chasse's ankles together, and tied them to his wrists, cuffed behind him. They carried him to the back of Humphrey's patrol car. He lay on his left side with his head by the driver's seat.

Humphreys said Chasse was mumbling in the back seat, and asked for his backpack. When Chasse began answering his questions, Humphreys opened the back door. " 'If you try to bite me or kick me,' I said, 'it's gonna be really, really bad,' " Humphreys said.

He asked Chasse if he had a wallet. "He goes, 'I have a wallet, I have a wallet,' and he kinda repeated it a couple times. So at this point, I'm starting to think this is a gentleman that's got some mental health issues."

Humphreys pulled a wallet from Chasse's left front pocket, and found his ID.

"What did I do? What did I do?" Chasse asked, as Humphreys read him his Miranda rights.

Chasse asked for water, and Mellaril. The officers weren't sure what Mellaril was, but suspected it sounded like some pill. Mellaril is an antipsychotic often prescribed to patients with schizophrenia, which Chasse suffered from.

Unconscious at jail

At the jail, deputies helped remove Chasse from the car because police said he wedged his foot under a seat. Humphreys asked the deputies to cover Chasse's head with a nylon spit sock, in case Chasse tried to bite someone.

The officers and deputies carried a struggling Chasse into an isolation cell and placed him on the floor. They cut the tie binding his legs to his wrists, and went to uncuff his wrists. Suddenly, Chasse stopped fighting.

"He's gone unconscious again," Humphreys thought. He turned to a deputy, and said, "We need to get medical. He passed out on us before and let's make sure he's breathing." Humphreys walked out, washed his hands and saw a nurse looking through the cell door window.

"The prison nurse is like, why was I called? Why didn't I see him before he came in . . . then she said, 'We can't take him, look at him, he's twitchy' . . . "

Since the jail wouldn't take Chasse, deputies prepared him to the ride to Portland Adventist Hospital, putting on leg chains and cuffing his wrists. They placed him back in the patrol car.

As the officers turned onto Interstate 5 north, they heard Chasse mumbling. As they veered onto Interstate 84 east, Humphreys heard a thud. He saw Chasse leaning against the passenger side door. The officer couldn't tell whether Chasse was breathing; he still had the spit sock over his head, but he noticed his left arm was "stark white."

"We gotta get off, we gotta get off," Humphreys yelled to Burton, directing him to activate his lights and take the next exit.

"James , James, James, wake up James!" Humphreys yelled.

Chasse dies

They pulled off the Northeast 33rd Avenue exit, turned right at the end of the off-ramp and stopped. Burton radioed for medical. Humphreys dragged Chasse from the back seat, pulled off the spit sock. His eyes were closed; mouth slightly open. He laid Chasse on his back on a sidewalk. He and Burton checked for a pulse, but didn't feel one. They removed his handcuffs.

Burton patted Chasse's head, slapped his cheek, yelled his name. He tilted Chasse's head back to clear an airway, and swept blood from his mouth with his finger. Humphreys started chest compressions, estimating he did at least three series of five.

"I remember lookin' at him going man, you know, I've gotta get some oxygen to him but I don't want to put my lips on his lips," Humphreys said.

Burton ran to the back of his car, tearing through a bag to find an air mask. At that moment, a nearby resident came up, offering to connect a defibrillator to Chasse's chest. As soon as the machine was attached, it spit out, "shock not advised."

The officers heard the ambulance sirens growing louder.

"You're sitting there, you know , beggin' him and God and everybody else, you know," Humphreys said. "And try to shove life back into him."

The officers backed away when medics arrived. They worked on him at the scene, and then rushed him to Providence Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Memo Portland Needs Right Now

from The Portland Freelancer

It's official: When it comes to death by our police, there is now more of a chance for the family of an Iraqi citizen killed illegally by coalition soldiers in Bagdhad to get some justice, than there is for an American citizen to receive it in downtown Portland. At least in Iraq there is a chance of an indictment.

I'm not going to wade through the details of the James Chasse case. What happened here was obvious. The city's presentation to the grand jury was based on a description of events that the officer himself first denied. What more do you need?

To the people in charge of this town, here is some advice: I'm sure there are a lot of things about your jobs that you enjoy - the power, the prestige, the fun of being a big deal. But if that bargain comes with participating in something like this, it is not worth it. In fact, it is one of the worst deals you could ever make.

Now there is a silence as the stench of this recent decision hangs over the city. Why can't you civic leaders do something? You're bureaucrats for Christ sake. Can't you at least fire off a memo? I'll even help you write it, okay? Here goes:

"Dear Portland Police Officers, This is from the offices of the Mayor, the Chief, and the DA. It's come to our attention that some of you have been killing unarmed citizens. Now, just because you have gotten away with that in this city in the past, doesn't mean we want you to count on it. In the future we'd really appreciate it if you didn't kill anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. Yes, we know there are tons of rules and regulations and it's sometimes hard to keep track of all the details. But we'd really appreciate it if you tried to remember this one. In fact, the entire city would be grateful.

Of course, we're the first to admit that maybe we haven't stressed this enough lately, so we're instituting a new incentive program. If you're not involved in any blatant killings of unarmed citizens for a whole year, we're going to ask the council to give you one extra paid day off. I know it's not much of a display of gratitude, but it's a start.

Finally, we're also going to have human resources draw up some posters as reminders - maybe a little something you can put in your locker. They'll say helpful easy to remember phrases like, "Please Don't Kill the Unarmed Citizens - They Live Here Too." We'd also like to declare the first Friday of every month as "Don't Kill Any Unarmed People" day.

Now, this city has created a legal climate where police officers can kill citizens and never be charged, and it's something we could protect if it doesn't get out of hand. Lately, however, this exemption has been abused. We hate to have to complain to you as a group because it's always a few bad apples who make everybody look bad, so don't take this personally if you're not at fault. But we need you to work with us, too.

These recent cases like what happened to James Chasse, are just becoming too obvious. Do you realize how hard we have to work to concoct these stories to keep you out of court? What about our needs? Do you think we're not busy enough as it is? Do you think we like manufacturing or selling these ridiculous stories just because you go out and kill somebody? We're busy too, you know. So how about some cooperation?

From now on, if you kill an unarmed citizen in a dubious way, you will be required to provide an airtight cover story that makes sense. No more sloppy testimony that we have to work overtime to explain. All Portland Police officers must do their part and present a plausible explanation at the time the investigation begins. Here's a simple rule we want you to follow: If you can't justify it, try not killing the person. We understand that there still might be some questions but at least give us a version of what happened that we can work with. On some level, it has to make sense. We're serious about this. This last case made very little sense and that makes us all look bad. Frankly, if these were regular citizens kicking and beating someone, and he died, we'd indict them in a heartbeat.

Oh, who are we kidding? Some of you still won't get the message. Look, we hate being sticklers for discipline, but, need we remind you, if you happen to kill someone who isn't armed - in a way that a normal citizen would be charged with murder - it will end up being part of your permanent record. No exceptions. And that's not all. We hate suggesting this, but we may be forced to take legal steps. No, really. This time we mean it."

As Chasse controversy deepens, cops have yet to release key documents

from the Portland Tribune

Releasing witness statements before all investigation documents are assembled 'wouldn't be appropriate,' police say

Family members Mark Chasse (left) and James Chasse Sr. (right) listen as their lawyer, Tom Steenson, speaks at a news conference this week about James Chasse Jr.’s death in police custody last month.

Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys seemed certain when detectives interviewed him last month, three days after the in-custody death of James Chasse Jr.: When he fell after a foot chase, he landed not on top of the much-smaller Chasse but on the sidewalk.

The Portland Police Bureau, however, contends that Humphreys did land on the 42-year-old Chasse, and that it has witness statements from other cops and civilians to prove it.

This particular turn of fact is critical, given that the police bureau has described the fall as causing the punctured lung and the 26 breaks to 16 ribs that caused internal bleeding, killing Chasse less than two hours later Sept. 17.

With the grand jury over and with no charges levied against Humphreys or anyone else in Chasse’s death, those witness statements are public records.

But the police bureau has refused to release them yet, preferring to wait up to two weeks to release all its materials on the case at once.

"It just wouldn't be appropriate at this time," bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said on Wednesday.

On Friday, he said, "To understand what occurred, you have to read the entire investigation. Because the investigation is typically about 1,000 pages, it typically takes us about 10 days to two weeks" to gather all the documents.

Dan Handelman, co-founder of the watchdog group Portland Copwatch, said releasing such documents could save the police bureau public headaches and help the agency appear more transparent.

“If those statements back up what they say, they should release them,” he said. “Well, honestly, even if they don’t back up the police, they should release them.”

Portland police said as fact Tuesday that their own investigation had concluded that Humphreys fell on Chasse after chasing him in the Pearl District, causing the injuries.

But a transcript of Humphreys’ interview with Portland police Detective Lynn Courtney, dated Sept. 20, shows that may not have been the case.

“Um, and I, I actually I remember was just goin’ down I thought boy this is gonna hurt, um on the pavement,” Humphreys said in the transcript, released to reporters Wednesday by a lawyer for Chasse’s family. “And I, I land on the pavement and I kinda rolled, and as I rolled I went up on my left side and I wear my uh, I keep a small flashlight in the left rear pocket and it actually jammed against my hip.”

Courtney asked Humphreys to clarify whether he fell on top of Chasse.

“Yeah, I fell on the sidewalk,” Humphreys said. “I went right, right over and past him.”

Other statements disagree

A day earlier, at a news conference called in response to a Multnomah County grand jury’s decision not to charge anyone with a crime in Chasse’s death, police could not have been more clear.

“As Mr. Chasse fell to the ground, he unexpectedly rolled into the path of the officer,” a “fact sheet” issued to reporters reads. “The officer then accidentally fell onto Mr. Chasse and rolled off.”

Police Chief Rosie Sizer and homicide unit Sgt. George Burke, whose detectives investigated the incident, each offered that statement as well.

Schmautz and Burke said witnesses told police they saw Humphreys fall on Chasse.

“The trouble is, there was no other time that anyone else – including the civilian witnesses – saw anybody else fall on or sit on or roll on Mr. Chasse, so there is no other way to see it,” Schmautz said. “But if you were to ask officer Humphreys, he would still say it didn’t happen.”

But the interview of Sgt. Kyle Nice, who also tussled with Chasse the day he died, is unclear on that point.

“It appeared, it appeared that Officer Humphreys kind of landed slightly off of the subject,” Nice told Courtney in an interview Sept. 18, one day after the incident, according to a transcript. “Kind of half on his right side and half on the ground, ’cause I could see you know, the backpack that he had wound up separated from us but I don’t know. He immediately started to squirm and attempt to get away so they weren’t in a static position that I can remember for very long.”

Nice said Humphreys took Chasse down with a “straight bear hug type tackle,” not the left-forearm shove that police described Humphreys using and which would be consistent with current training methods.

The third law-enforcement officer at the scene, Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy Brad Burton, also was unclear about the takedown in responding to a question from Portland police detective Jon Rhodes.

“I mean you can use the word tackle in a very general sense,” Burton said. “Just because someone’s forced to the ground people use that word, but I don’t know if he, if he wrapped his arms around him, I don’t know if he landed on top of him, all I know is they collided running in the same direction and uh, I believe both went to the ground and I’m not sure where they landed.”

Family seeks answers

Chasse’s family is contemplating a lawsuit, among other options, their lawyer, Tom Steenson, said Wednesday at a news conference held at the World Trade Center complex in downtown Portland.

He lambasted police for not being more forthcoming with records, saying he received the interview transcripts from the Multnomah County district attorney’s office.

Chasse’s brother and father attended and sat with Steenson near the nest of television and radio microphones.

They barely spoke.

“We’re private people,” Mark Chasse, the victim’s younger brother, said.

Steenson said the grand jury had been “misled” and that the jurors’ decision not to indict anyone denied the Chasse family justice.

He said William Brady, the Oregon state medical examiner from 1969 to 1985 who has been hired by the family as an expert witness in this case, told the grand jury that the injuries Chasse received seemed inconsistent with the story behind them.

“We would hope that Chief Sizer and the police bureau would stop releasing false information to the public,” Steenson said.

Sizer and Mayor Tom Potter, at his own news conference Tuesday, apologized to the Chasse family.

Steenson was unimpressed. After leaning over and listening to whispers from Chasse’s father, also named James, Steenson sat forward toward the microphones.

“The apology is a far cry from justice for Jim Chasse,” he said.

The vulnerable need state’s help

from the West Linn Tidings, op/ed by Beverly Backa

“Is there No Place on Earth For Me”…is the title of a Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction work published more than two decades ago. Reading it helped shape my vision and set the course for my professional career. The book is the story of the “revolving door” mental health system that a young woman experienced in New York in the 1970s.

Sadly, the story of that young woman still rings true today. The story of James Chasse, a man who suffered from chronic schizophrenia and his tragic death in downtown Portland is a story of a system that is still ill equipped to deal with and humanely treat the mentally ill. I did not know James, but his parents, who barely knew me, have supported my political campaign. I feel it is my duty to do my best to address the issues and the solutions that might have saved, or at least improved, their son’s life.

During the course of the past week I have attended two public forums – the Clackamas County Legislative Forum and the Affordable Housing Forum in Beaverton. A common theme has emerged from these two public meetings and the details of James Chasse’s life and death – mental illness and homelessness are often tied together.

After more than 20 years of service as a mental health provider, this is not new information for me. But that we still struggle with it is a new call to action. The mentally ill do not just struggle with their internal demons – they struggle with the same real life issues that we all face. How do we feed ourselves and provide for our basic needs such as housing, and in James’s case, personal safety.

One of the most remarkable studies ever done that supports the case for housing for the mentally ill was simple in its nature. A group of researchers “gave” a group of consumers (mentally ill) their own apartment. They offered no other treatment and simply monitored the progress of the patients. The aspect of simply having a residence so greatly improved the health of these individuals that in some cases it rivaled the affect of psychotropic medication. The study was interesting, but the idea has continued to struggle to find a firm foothold. In a society that eschews a “handout,” the idea of just giving people housing as treatment was and remains countercultural.

James Chasse was one of the fortunate few who had obtained stable housing at the time of his death. It is not the case for many others. Affordable housing is being torn down daily to make way for new or renovated properties that offer builders and investors a higher rate of return. We can expect little or no help from the federal government on this front and it is up to our state and local leaders to step up to this challenge.

There are a few bright spots on the horizon. Villebois has worked with Clackamas County Mental Health to develop community based housing for the mentally ill within its “village” type concept. The first units have just been completed. The units offer housing that is accessible and close to employment opportunities for the individuals that they will shelter. It is a start, but we have a long way to go.

Affordable housing will involve capital investment. The Housing Alliance, a group of non-profit organizations and city governments, has developed the 2007 Housing Opportunity Agenda.

It calls for the state legislature to appropriate $100 million in the next biennium to support affordable housing. A majority of the funds will constitute a capital investment in actual housing.

For a Legislature that is short on dollars for operations, the idea of capital expenditures is a stretch. But I keep hearing a lot of talk about “return on investment” from our elected officials.

If we are really serious about this concept then the Oregon Legislature is going to need to invest in affordable housing for the mentally ill and other at-risk populations.

The “return on investment” is a capitalized asset that remains after many services have come and gone. The return on investment could very well be a life.

Bev Backa is the democratic candidate for State Representative, House District 37.

Chasse family says police distorted facts

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

The family of James P. Chasse Jr. on Wednesday accused the Portland Police Bureau of distorting the facts of the case and blasted the district attorney's office for its "blatant conflict of interest" investigating Portland officers involved in Chasse's death.

The family released transcripts of police interviews with the officers, saying the documents contradict the bureau's version. They pointed to the interview of Officer Christopher Humphreys, who police say fell onto Chasse during a foot chase, causing multiple rib fractures that killed him. But in his interview, Humphreys says he didn't fall onto Chasse at all.

The Chasse family said they were pleased that Mayor Tom Potter apologized to them for Chasse's death, but they remain horrified by how Chasse died in police custody.

"The apology is a far cry from justice for Jim Chasse," said Thomas Steenson, the attorney representing the Chasse family.

Chasse's father, James P. Chasse Sr.; Jim's younger brother, Mark Chasse; and Steenson railed against the police and prosecutors for their handling of Chasse's death investigation, a day after a Multnomah County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by the three officers involved.

Chasse, 42, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after receiving multiple rib fractures that punctured his left lung after a Sept. 17 encounter with two Portland police officers and a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy.

Police said Tuesday the officers thought Chasse was urinating by a tree in the Pearl District. When they approached, he ran, and they chased him. As they ran down a slight slope on Northwest Everett Street, police say Humphreys pushed Chasse with his left forearm, which is in line with bureau training, but then fell on him.

But Humphreys told detectives he shoved Chasse hard with both forearms to knock him down. When Chasse fell, Humphreys said he fell to the pavement.

"I just went boom, down right on the ground," Humphreys said, according to his interview transcript. "I fell on the sidewalk. I went right, right over and past him."

Humphreys said that he went into a shoulder roll and flipped onto his back, then quickly crawled back to Chasse.

Sgt. Kyle Nice, in his interview with detectives, gave a conflicting account. He said he saw Humphreys tackle Chasse to the ground by wrapping both arms around Chasse, landing on top of him. Nice said Humphreys grabbed Chasse in a "straight bear hug-type tackle," a method that Portland police no longer train officers to use.

Deputy Brad Burton said he saw Humphreys and Chasse go to the ground, but couldn't say if the officer fell on top of Chasse.

Steenson said the Chasse family doesn't believe Chasse died from Humphreys falling on top of him, but from multiple punches and kicks to his body as officers were struggling to turn Chasse onto his stomach and handcuff him.

"It's clear Jim was subjected to unnecessary, brutal force by the police," Steenson said. "The force that was used --the kicking and the striking --was intentional."

In their interviews, two officers say they punched Chasse because he was biting or trying to bite them, and a third said he kicked Chasse after being bit.

Conflicting interpretations

The family attorney lambasted Chief Rosie Sizer and the bureau for putting out a fact sheet on how Chasse died, when the officers' own interviews conflict with what the bureau stated as facts. He also questioned why police made no mention of accounts from witnesses, who reported seeing officers repeatedly punching and kicking Chasse in the head and chest.

Portland Police Sgt. Brian Schmautz said it's true that Humphreys does not think he ever fell on top of Chasse, but investigators believe he did based on witness statements and physical evidence. According to police, the state medical examiner found no sign of trauma from punches or kicks that would have caused Chasse's death.

"What investigators try to do is look at all witness statements, all physical evidence and draw conclusions from those," Schmautz said.

Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson's autopsy report said Chasse died from broad-based blunt-force trauma "by another person or a fall."

The Chasse family retained Dr. William Brady, a former state medical examiner who often testifies for the defense. Brady told the family the massive shattering and crushing of Chasse's ribs would had to have been from some type of kicking or striking with tremendous force, Steenson said. There was no damage to Chasse's sternum, which Brady believed would have occurred from someone falling on top of him.

The family criticized what they viewed as law enforcement's lackadaisical, uncaring attitude toward Chasse, pointing out the well-publicized photograph a witness took of Chasse lying in the street surrounded by police officers, fire and ambulance medics standing around him.

Even when taken to jail, where Chasse suffered two seizures and Humphreys thought Chasse had stopped breathing, Chasse received no medical attention. A jail nurse looked into the cell door window, noticed him "twitching" and said little more than "we can't take him," and just walked off, according to Humphrey's interview transcript.

"We remain horrified by the callous and completely indifferent ways police and law enforcement treated James," his father said. "They treated my son as though he didn't count as a human being."

District attorney criticized

Sizer has said that she hopes to draft new policy regarding how information is shared between police and emergency medical staff and jail personnel. The officers' interviews do not indicate that they shared with ambulance medics at the scene the extent of their struggle with Chasse, and how he was knocked to the ground.

Police have said medics found Chasse's vital signs normal and cleared him to go to jail. But Nice, in interviews with detectives, said ambulance medics did ask him, "Do you want him transported?" Nice said he replied, "No, we have criminal charges. He'll be going to jail."

Chasse faced charges of resisting arrest, assault on an officer and interfering with police.

Mark Chasse criticized the district attorney's office for failing to hold these officers accountable.

"If the DA's office could not get an indictment against these officers for their brutalization and torture of James, it's hard to imagine when they ever might," he said.

Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk defended his office's ability to investigate police, and said that the county, unlike other jurisdictions, takes most every death in police custody to a grand jury for review.

"I don't think we have a conflict," he said. "We've prosecuted policemen before."

The grand jury that heard Chasse's case was presented with the definitions of four potential criminal charges, including murder, manslaughter 1 and 2, and criminal negligent homicide.

Chasse's family thanked those who have offered their condolences and invited the community to a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the First Congregational Church in Portland, 1126 S.W. Park Ave.

They said they are private people, and it's been very difficult speaking out, but they feel they must for Jim's sake.

"This is necessary for us to do this" said Mark Chasse, "because we love Jim."


from The Oregonian

Chasse decision: Multiple failures revealed

For five years, before becoming an attorney, I worked as a mental health counselor in Washington and Oregon.

James P. Chasse Jr.'s death is a tragedy created because the Portland Police Bureau, like the rest of the public, has chosen to defund the mental health system.

Notwithstanding the duty owed to these disabled people and their large concentration in Portland, it should come as no shock to us that our police are so ignorant that they lack the special training necessary to recognize a mentally ill person when they see one. Portland police were even told two days earlier about Chasse going off of his medication ("No indictment in Chasse death," Oct. 18).

This is not the first time that the mentally ill have died in encounters with police in Portland, and it is not the first time folks have apologized and called for improvements in training. Nothing really changes other than the system's efforts to do better politicking before the next time.

It is time for all police officers to receive real professional training about mental illness.

I still cannot understand how [possibly] urinating in public is such a dangerous crime as to justify the use of force sufficient to kill a man.


One sentence in the Wednesday article about the grand jury's finding no criminal wrongdoing in James P. Chasse Jr.'s death shocked me beyond belief: "The officers involved were not specially trained to deal with the mentally ill."

In January 1992, Nathan Thomas, a 12-year-old boy in my neighborhood, was accidentally shot in the course of an incident involving a mentally ill intruder. Portland police vowed that their officers would have more training in handling the mentally ill. Clearly, this still has not occurred.

That any police officer on duty in downtown Portland can not be specifically trained in handling this population is a travesty. This population is rapidly expanding. How many terrified, mentally ill people will be injured or killed like Chasse, and how many lawsuits will the city of Portland endure until it makes good on its promise of nearly 15 years ago?

Northeast Portland

The explanation of how James P. Chasse Jr. died, by Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, insults the intelligence of anyone with an IQ greater than 50. By her explanation, any football game played on AstroTurf would result in a great number of broken ribs.

Chasse's ribs were broken with kicks and knee drops. Don't hold your breath waiting for a public inquest. These travesties of justice will continue to occur until the public gets a say in these biased investigations.


I think the medical personnel had fault here, but also I believe James P. Chasse Jr. died because the police went too far. I don't believe a man suffers 16 broken ribs when another man "accidentally" falls on him.

The problem is one of multiple failures. Police are not trained to talk to people. So a man died because he might have urinated in public. People who are mentally ill, retarded, high, drunk or experiencing lots of tics and yelling because they have Tourette Syndrome do not deserve to be shot. Often nothing they are doing requires an arrest.

Chasse could have been given a ticket instead of being chased down, restrained, beaten and stunned.

People who are confused, agitated and upset don't respond well to being yelled at, chased or alarmed. Quiet, calm people (as in trained crisis teams) would be a great alternative to nervous, aggressive officers.

Southeast Portland

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chasse's Family Disappointed By Grand Jury Finding


The family of a mentally ill man who died while being taken into police custody says it is disappointed by a grand jury finding. The panel found Tuesday that the officers were not criminally negligent in the death of James Chasse. Kristian Foden-Vencil reports.
Mark Chasse, James's brother, called the grand jury system "deeply flawed" by a blatant conflict of interest. He says justice cannot be expected when the Multnomah County DA is responsible for investigating the misconduct of the same officers it works with every day.

Mark Chasse: "If the DA's office cannot get an indictment against these officers for their brutalization and torture of James, it is hard to imagine when they ever might. This system ultimately substitutes justice by public relations and political spin for anything resembling actual justice."

Chasse's family says it is considering whether to file a civil suit. It also accuses the Portland Police Department of twisting the facts in this case.

The department is conducting an internal investigation.

The City of Portland is expected to set up a human relations commission. Among other tasks, it would look into police treatment of the mentally ill.

No indictment in Chasse death

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

A Multnomah County grand jury Tuesday found no criminal wrongdoing by police or others in the Sept. 17 death of James P. Chasse Jr., after a police inquiry concluded that Chasse died from multiple rib fractures once an officer pushed him to the ground and fell on top of him.

"Officer (Christopher) Humphreys accidentally and inadvertently landed on top of him," said Sgt. George Burke, who supervises homicide detectives.

Chasse, a 42-year-old man who suffered from schizophrenia, had run from two Portland officers and a Multnomah County deputy sheriff when they saw him acting oddly and possibly urinating behind a tree in the Pearl District.

Chasse died from broad-based, blunt-force trauma to his chest suffered early in his encounter with authorities, state medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson ruled. Gunson also called the death "accidental." An autopsy showed he had 26 breaks in 16 ribs, some of which punctured his left lung and caused massive internal bleeding.

The seven-member grand jury ruled unanimously after deliberating for 20 to 25 minutes Tuesday afternoon and hearing testimony from 30 witnesses over five days, beginning Oct. 3. Seven of those witnesses were civilians who saw the police struggle with Chasse.).

Police Chief Rosie Sizer, calling Chasse's case the most controversial incident in her short tenure as chief, said she and the Portland Police Bureau "regret" Chasse's death in custody. She termed it a tragedy.

New policy in works

Though she would not comment on the officers' actions until an internal review is done, the chief said Chasse's case has prompted her to review and develop a new policy for how police interact and share information with ambulance medics and jail medical staff.

"I think that's a rich area of policy work that we can do better on," Sizer said.

The chief said she wants new recruits to get full crisis intervention training, and she will look for ways to extend the training to more veteran officers.

Mayor Tom Potter issued an apology to the Chasse family, but wouldn't answer when asked whether he considered Chasse's death an accident.

"The Chasse family has endured much heartache since James Chasse died, and for this I am truly sorry," Potter said. "I personally feel the need to apologize when anyone dies in police custody, regardless of the cause, and I apologize to the Chasse family."

The Police Bureau's criminal investigation found that officers called for medical help when they noticed Chasse went unconscious. Ambulance medics found his vital signs to be normal and cleared him to be taken to jail.

A Portland officer signed the ambulance company's medical waiver for Chasse, a step the officer thought was unusual and police called uncommon. Once Chasse arrived at the jail, a nurse evaluated Chasse through a cell door window, and police took Chasse to a hospital by patrol car because jail staff never signaled that Chasse was in a medical emergency. The officers involved were not specially trained to deal with the mentally ill.

Chasse's death has disturbed many in the community. At least three witnesses to the police struggle with Chasse filed complaints of excessive force. The Mental Health Association of Portland has adopted his case as their advocacy project for 2006. His family has hired a prominent Portland civil-rights lawyer to investigate, and the mayor has promised a special council committee to study how the community can better protect the mentally ill.

Chasse's family attorney Thomas Steenson declined to comment on the ruling Tuesday, saying the family probably would make a statement today.

Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk shared the investigative reports with Chasse's family and asked whether they recommended any witnesses to call for the grand jury. One of the last witnesses called was William Brady, a former state medical examiner who often testifies on behalf of the defense, at the family's request.

Results of police inquiry

After the grand jury ruling Tuesday afternoon, the Police Bureau presented the results of its criminal investigation into Chasse's death.

That investigation revealed that at 5:08 p.m. Sept. 17, Central Precinct Sgt. Kyle Nice was at Northwest 18th Avenue and Everett Street with an intoxicated person. Officer Humphreys and sheriff's deputy Brett Burton pulled up to assist Nice. Humphreys noticed Chasse across the street, walking into traffic and acting "suspicious and odd," Burke said.

The officers cleared their contact with the intoxicated person at 5:16 p.m. Humphreys and Burton drove east on Northwest Everett. Humphreys thought he saw Chasse urinating behind a tree in the 1300 block of Everett and pulled to the curb. Burton tried to shout to Chasse and get his attention.

Burton told detectives that Chasse's "eyes are big like he's in terror," Burke said. Chasse turned and ran, screaming "no," police said.

Humphreys ran after Chasse, eastbound on Everett. He pushed Chasse with his left forearm to knock him down. Officers are trained to push a suspect to one side, and rush around to the other side to approach them, Burke said.

Instead, Humphreys, about 100 pounds heavier than the 5-foot-9, 145-pound Chasse, landed on top of him.

At that point, Nice grabbed Chasse's left arm to get control of him, and Humphreys tried to control Chasse's right arm. Chasse bit Nice on his left leg, and tried to bite him a second time, Burke said. Nice kicked Chasse in the chest and armpit area.

At 5:20 p.m., the officers called dispatch to send more officers.

Humphreys, still trying to control Chasse's right arm, saw Chasse about to bite him and moved his arm away, according to police, "inadvertently" hitting Chasse in the face. Humphreys told detectives he struck Chasse in the head again with a closed fist when he saw Chasse try to bite him again.

Burton drew his Taser, and placed it to Chasse's lower back to stun him once. The Taser cycled four times, as witnesses recounted, meaning Burton tried to use it four times, but it actually touched Chasse's body once, police said.

By 5:22 p.m., the officers radioed that they had Chasse in custody. He was placed in maximum restraint, meaning his ankles were bound to his wrists, which were cuffed behind his back to keep him from kicking.

A minute later, at 5:23:04, Nice radioed for emergency medical help, saying Chasse was unconscious. At 5:25 p.m., ambulance medics arrived, followed by Portland Fire Bureau medics.

"This person then becomes their patient," Burke said.

Chasse was lying on his side as medics evaluated him. They found his vital signs within normal range: his blood pressure 110/73; pulse 100 beats a minute; respiration rate 18 to 20 breaths a minute, and his glucose level normal.

Police said they didn't know whether the officers had conveyed to the medics that they had used a Taser on Chasse. Police policy doesn't require medical attention after a Taser is used in a close-contact, stun mode.

Humphreys asked the medics, "Is he good to go?"

An ambulance medic told the officer Chasse was OK to transport to jail, and asked Humphreys to sign a medical release form for Chasse, Burke said. Humphreys found that odd, but figured that he was asked to sign it because they weren't about to uncuff Chasse, Burke said.

At 5:52:11, Humphreys and Burton arrived at jail. Chasse had his feet wedged under the car seat, and jail staff helped remove him from the patrol car as Chasse screamed and spit at them. The jail staff placed a "spit sock" of nylon material over Chasse's head to keep him from spitting at them. Police said it would not have impaired Chasse's breathing.

By 6:15 p.m., Chasse was placed in a separation cell. Humphreys noticed that Chasse suddenly stopped screaming and may have gone unconscious, Burke said.

A jail nurse evaluated Chasse through the cell door window, noticing Chasse acting like he was experiencing seizures, with blood around his mouth. Jail nurses alerted police that they're not going to accept him for booking and had officers take him to Portland Adventist Hospital, the hospital the county contracts with.

Jail nurses never suggested to police they needed to move with urgency, Burke said.

"Because there was no information that Mr. Chasse was medically unstable, and he was conscious and talking at the time he was placed in the police car, officers began to transport him," police said in prepared statements.

At 6:23 p.m., Humphreys and Burton took Chasse in their patrol car to the hospital. As they were heading north on Interstate 5 to I-84 east, Humphreys heard Chasse fall against a door. He said Chasse's face was "ashen" color and he directed Burton to get off the freeway.

They took the 33rd Avenue exit off I-84, and called for medical help. At 6:29 p.m., Humphreys removed Chasse's handcuffs and did chest compressions. A nearby resident, Jon Olson, who sells defibrillators, offered to hook Chasse up to the machine, but the machine advised: "Do not shock," police said.

An ambulance arrived at 6:48 p.m. They reached the hospital at 6:51 p.m., and Chasse was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m.

Gunson's autopsy found that the fractures to Chasse's rear and side ribs resulted from his fall to the ground, and Humphreys landing on top of him. The fractures to his front rib case, near his sternum, are consistent with CPR.

Call two days earlier

Two days before Chasse's death, mental health specialists from Project Respond called for police to assist them at Chasse's apartment on Northwest Broadway, because he was urinating in the hallway and off his medication, said Christine Mascal, a deputy district attorney who handled the grand jury case. By the time police arrived, Chasse had run out the door.

Robert King, president of the Portland Police Association, said it's an "unrealistic expectation" for officers to be expected to recognize that a person on the street may be mentally ill. He said the death was a tragedy and the result of a "communitywide system failure," that requires increased funding for services for the mentally ill.

Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, called the grand jury ruling "disappointing, but not surprising." He said he's encouraged that the mayor and chief are pledging to improve the way the mental health and law enforcement communities work together. But he said Chasse did not die because of his mental illness, but because officers fractured his ribs and punctured his lungs.

Nice, Humphreys and Burton have been on paid leave while the investigation continued. They can now return to work. An internal police investigation will start, examining whether any of the officers violated police policies or training.

EDITORIAL - Chasse's death demands public inquest, illumination

from The Oregonian

The death of James Philip Chasse Jr. in police custody makes no sense whatsoever, until you learn that he was mentally ill. And then, if it's possible, it makes even less. If Chasse's death was accidental, it is no less important to correct the failings that led to it. This death has rocked the conscience of the community.

Chasse, 42, was a gentle and artistic poet and musician who could have been your neighbor, your brother or your son. He was born in Portland, grew up here and attended the Metropolitan Learning Center. In his late teens, he began suffering from severe schizophrenia, and a stay in the state hospital seems to have, if anything, worsened his condition. People who knew him say he was never the same.

On Sept. 17, police officers observed Chasse acting oddly, and one officer thought he might have been urinating in public. If so, that was Chasse's first mistake. When police approached him, he made his second --running away from the officers, screaming "No!" with a look of horror on his face. Some people who are mentally ill are particularly paranoid about the police. And the way Chasse died suggests that this response may not be entirely irrational for someone in those circumstances.

When police caught up with him, one officer pushed Chasse and he fell to the ground. That same officer, police say, then landed on Chasse in what could have been an accidental fall. That might have been responsible for the massive injuries that led to Chasse's death, police suggest. Is this really a plausible explanation, though? Perhaps, but it bears further scrutiny in light of the violence surrounding Chasse's capture.

Many other questions need answering. Among them: Was it strictly necessary to go after Chasse? And why didn't he get the medical care more quickly that he should have gotten? Chasse went in and out of consciousness, and medics were called to the scene, but why did it take so long for everyone to recognize how seriously he'd been injured? By the time he was taken to the hospital, it may have already been too late to save him.

On Tuesday, a Multnomah County grand jury ruled that the officers involved should not face any criminal charges arising from Chasse's death. It's a narrow ruling that, while exonerating the officers of criminal wrongdoing, does almost nothing to explain what happened, why it happened or what the officers involved could, and should, have done differently. Because one thing is clear: This death should never have happened.

It's true that the burden of dealing with the mentally ill falls disproportionately on the shoulders of the police, as Police Chief Rosie Sizer pointed out in the immediate aftermath of Chasse's death. But that has been true for many years and it means, among many other things, that police need to get better at it. Mayor Tom Potter is right to follow up on this death by creating a task force that will recommend to the Oregon Legislature ways to deal with the mentally ill who are now on the street.

To their credit, neither the mayor nor the police chief tried to argue Tuesday that the review of this case is over. They know it has barely begun. In addition to a review within the Portland Police Bureau, this death demands a public inquest and a full public airing of the facts.

Chasse is not the first mentally ill person to die in police custody or at police hands. But what should come out of this tragedy is a new determination by the mayor and chief that this death be the last.

Mental Disorder - Mayor and Police Chief Take Aim at Mental Health Crisis

from the Portland Mercury

Last week, Tyrone Waters—who was shot by Portland police in September 2001, as he clutched a pellet gun during a psychotic episode on his neighbor's front porch—made an appeal to Police Chief Rosie Sizer. At the chief's bimonthly forum, Waters asked Sizer to take the lead on making sure her officers are better equipped to de-escalate conflicts with mentally ill people, especially in light of the James Chasse Jr. case.

Sizer and Mayor Tom Potter have both pledged to address the issues of mental health services and police training in the weeks since Chasse—who suffered from schizophrenia—died on September 17 in police custody ("Death in Custody," News, Sept 28).

Waters—who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1995—says he was "too scared" to obey police instructions on the night he was shot. He says he's "lucky to be alive," after one officer shot at him five times with live rounds, but missed—he was, however, hit three times with beanbag rounds by the other officers.

"I'm a survivor of the mental health system," he told Sizer at the forum. "More can be done in police training to address dealing with the mentally ill, and budget shortfalls are no excuse."

Afterward, both Sizer and Assistant Chief Lynnae Berg thanked Waters for coming, and assured him they would work on addressing his concerns—but couldn't give a timeframe.

"I ended up by saying, 'I really hope you're sincere,'" says Waters, who describes Chasse's death as a "tragedy that did not need to happen."

Waters wants officer training, both in Portland and on the state level, to place more emphasis on de-escalation, and in a consistent fashion.

Currently, officer training in the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is anything but consistent. All officers receive between 10 to 12 hours of training in crisis intervention—which addresses de-escalation—on top of their basic training. Just 120 Portland police officers have completed a full 40-hour crisis intervention course, coordinated by Officer Paul Ware. Ware does not think the three officers involved in Chasse's death had gone through the crisis intervention course.

"When crisis intervention is embraced by the community and police, it can work," he says, declining to speculate on whether it could have prevented Chasse's death.

One officer on every shift is supposed to have undergone the full 40-hour training, but "the odds of that officer being there when a situation arises are pretty low," says Dan Handelman—who heads up activist group Portland Copwatch.

Such inconsistency is intolerable to Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly, whose 2005 bill reforming policies concerning the "use of deadly force by officers" was instrumental in pushing the PPB to increase its basic training from just eight weeks to 16. But it's still not enough, she says.

"We're so far below the national standard, which is between 21 and 22 weeks," says Gordly, who happens to be Waters' mother. "We need every officer, statewide, to receive crisis intervention training—at the moment, we don't know that an officer arriving at the scene is an officer who's received that training, and we need to remove that uncertainty."

But Portland's mental health crisis is not just a police training issue—there's also a lack of services for those with mental health problems. Since 2002, the funding for Cascadia—Multnomah County's biggest provider of mental health services—has been slashed at the state level by 33 percent: from $12 million to $8 million, leaving inadequately trained cops and jail staff to pick up the slack.

"When the funding was cut, we saw an increase in emergency room visits, and there were one or two tragedies we could directly link to the lack of money," says Cascadia Director Leslie Ford. Ford says the funding cuts were made when the state budget showed all-around deficits, and she hopes some of the new found state surplus will find its way back into the mental health system.

On September 25, a week after Chasse's death, Mayor Potter pledged to "work with others to begin making real changes," calling for "a solution that includes our correctional system, medical and mental health providers."

Potter's spokesperson met with Mental Health Association Secretary Jason Renaud last Thursday to ask for advice on involving mental health agencies in changing the current system. Renaud says Potter needs to be careful to avoid repeating Multnomah County's 2000-2003 "mental health redesign," which cost millions of dollars although "ultimately, at an outcome level, most of it failed."

Renaud says one of the biggest problems facing Potter and Sizer is that the five agencies working for mental health in Multnomah County fail to talk to each other—indeed, they're often prohibited from doing so under federal law.

Renaud points out that Chasse was already involved in a clinical relationship with Cascadia before his death. While Cascadia is prevented from sharing information about those it treats with other agencies, including the police, Renaud feels such inter-agency communication might have averted Chasse's death—it's here that he's urging Potter to work for change.

The mayor and Chief Sizer will make statements aiming to address these issues following the outcome of the grand jury investigation into Chasse's death: A decision on whether or not the officers involved in Chasse's death will be indicted is expected early next week. In the meantime, Renaud is urging the officials to shoulder their responsibility with care.

"There's a lot of reasons why people might not respond to the police like a dog responds to a whistle," says Renaud. "But those are the people that need to feel safe. That's justice, in the end. The best memorial for Jim [Chasse] would be justice."

Hall Monitor

from the Portland Mercury

Stop me if you've heard this one:

A Portland citizen dies presumably at the hands of local cops in a completely preventable, utterly unnecessary way. The community is outraged and emotionally shaken, as everyone can see how easily—given only slightly different circumstances—the corpse could have been them or someone they love. But the man at the top of the responsibility ladder, the man whose job it is to talk the community down off the ledge, to ensure us that there will be accountability and reforms that lessen the chance of this ever happening again, a man named Tom Potter, is out of the country on vacation.

And not only is Mayor Potter on vacation, he doesn't even respond until more than a week later, at which point he explains that his staff didn't inform him of the death until days after it occurred.

Sound familiar? It should. This was the scenario following the death of James Chasse last month, and it was a scenario that happened 14 years ago, when Potter was chief of police, and a 12-year-old boy named Nathan Thomas—who had been taken hostage by an assailant—was killed by police bullets. At the time, Potter was vacationing in Mexico and didn't return until more than two weeks after the shooting. He said the hotel he was staying in didn't have a phone, and that he didn't find out about it for 11 days. But then, when he was running for mayor in 2004, he revealed to Willamette Week that his hotel did have a phone, and that he found out sooner than he let on.

In Chasse's case, Potter was in Germany, and when he finally opened his mouth, he blamed his staff for not telling him. Even worse, Potter ignored the glaring issues of possible police brutality, deflecting the blame to a lack of resources and training in the handling of people with mental health problems.

Now, it's not my position to tell the mayor how to do his job, but—as you've probably already guessed—I won't let that stop me. Perhaps, your honor, when a man dies a brutal death in police custody, when he suffocates because all of his ribs have been pulverized, when he dies in the back of a cruiser because the officers didn't think to use the ambulance that was already on the scene, your staff should probably wake you up long enough to clue you in. And then you, as the elected leader of this city, should do more than issue a couple of blanket statements over three weeks. The members of the community, not to mention the victims, deserve better.

Officer's statements conflict with police account of in-custody death

from the Portland Tribune

Citing transcripts, James Chasse Jr.'s family disputes the incident's key details

Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys seemed certain when detectives interviewed him last month, three days after the in-custody death of James Chasse Jr.: When he fell after a foot chase, he landed not on top of the much-smaller Chasse but on the sidewalk.

So if Humphreys did not land on Chasse, and if the falling officer did not cause the punctured lung and the 26 breaks to 16 ribs that caused internal bleeding and killed Chasse less than two hours later, what did?

Portland police said as fact Tuesday that their own investigation concluded that Humphreys fell on Chasse after chasing him Sept. 17 in the Pearl District, causing the injuries.

But a transcript of Humphreys’ interview with Portland police Detective Lynn Courtney, dated Sept. 20, shows that may not be true.

“Um, and I, I actually I remember was just goin’ down I thought boy this is gonna hurt, um on the pavement,” Humphreys said in the transcript, released Wednesday to reporters by a lawyer for Chasse’s family. “And I, I land on the pavement and I kinda rolled and as I rolled I went up on my left side and I wear my uh, I keep a small flashlight in the left rear pocket and it actually jammed against my hip.”

Courtney asked Humphreys to clarify whether he fell on top of Chasse.

“Yeah, I fell on the sidewalk,” Humphreys said. “I went right, right over and past him.”

To read a selection from the transcript quoted above, click the link at the bottom of this story.

A day earlier, at a press conference called in response to a Multnomah County grand jury’s decision not to charge Humphreys or anyone else with a crime in Chasse’s death, police could not have been more clear.

“As Mr. Chasse fell to the ground, he unexpectedly rolled into the path of the officer,” a “fact sheet” issued to reporters reads. “The officer then accidentally fell onto Mr. Chasse and rolled off.”

Chief of Police Rosie Sizer and homicide unit Sgt. George Burke, whose detectives investigated the incident, each offered that statement as well.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, police bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said Humphreys truly believes he did not fall on Chasse.

“The trouble is, there was no other time that anyone else — including the civilian witnesses — saw anybody fall on or sit on or roll on Mr. Chasse, so there is no other way to see it,” Schmautz said. “But if you were to ask officer Humphreys, he would still say it didn’t happen.”

The dead man’s family is contemplating a lawsuit among other options, their lawyer, Tom Steenson, said Wednesday at a news conference held at the World Trade Center complex in downtown Portland.

Chasse’s brother and father attended and sat with Steenson near the nest of television and radio microphones.

They barely spoke.

“We’re private people,” Mark Chasse, the victim’s brother, said.

Steenson said the grand jury had been “misled” and that the jurors’ decision not to indict anyone denied the Chasse family justice.

He said William Brady, the Oregon state medical examiner from 1969 to 1985 and hired by the family as an expert witness in this case, told the grand jury that the injuries Chasse received were inconsistent with the story behind them.

“We would hope that Chief Sizer and the police bureau would stop releasing false information to the public,” Steenson said.

Sizer and Mayor Tom Potter, at his own press conference Tuesday, apologized to the Chasse family.

Steenson was unimpressed. After leaning over and listening to whispers from Chasse’s father, also named James, Steenson sat forward toward the microphones.

“The apology is a far cry from justice for Jim Chasse,” he said.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pictures from the Memorial for James Chasse

Thanks to First Congregational Church for helping us hold the memorial for James Chasse on October 17, 2006.

System Failure for Jim Jim

from Mary's Great Ideas

Multiple failures, no doubt, but another insult is just in.

The police who beat him to death have been let off the hook. KATU would have us believe that they have been exonerated but that's unlikely for most of us.

It's just sickening. I'll be keeping my ears and eyes open for what I can do next.

Update by way of Mental Health Association of Portland.

In Memory of James Chasse Jr.
community information
A candlelight memorial vigil for James Chasse Jr.

Friday, October 27, 2006 7:00 PM
First Congregational Church
1126 SW Park Ave

Friends, family, and concerned community members will gather to remember James Chasse, Jr. on Friday, October 27, 2006 at 7:00 PM at Portland's First Congregational Church in a memorial vigil titled "Love One Another." Chasse, who died in Portland Police custody on September 17, is remembered as a peaceful man who wished no harm on anyone. People attending the vigil are asked to honor the family's wishes for a respectful event. Messages to be communicated apart from memories of James should be focused on simple, positive phrases such as "Justice," "Love," and "Remember James Chasse, Jr."

The event is being co-coordinated by members of the Chasse family, the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, Portland Copwatch (a grassroots group promoting police accountability through citizen action), the Mental Health Association of Portland, and others. For more information call Portland Copwatch at 503-236-3065.

Please note that this event was originally scheduled for Thursday the 26th and has been moved to Friday.

For information about James Chasse, see

Grand Jury Verdict In: Cops off the hook for Chasse’s Death

from the Portland Mercury
The Grand Jury has come to a verdict in the James Chasse death. Nobody was criminally liable.

As well as hearing testimony fro 30 witnesses, the Grand Jury also reviewed exhibits, photographs and records that included Mr. Chasse’s extensive mental health history.

Attorneys and an investigator for the Chasse family were allowed to review all investigative material in the possession of the District Attorney’s Office and suggest any witnesses or evidence that should be heard before the Grand Jury. They suggested one witness, Dr. Brady, who was called. They were also permitted to review written definitions of possible criminal conduct in this matter that were given to the Grand Jury.

District Attorney Michael Schrunk has emphasized that today’s decision by the Grand Jury is a narrow one: whether any individual had criminal responsibility in Mr. Chasse’s tragic death.

Portland Police Bureau Fact Sheet - Mr. James Chasse, Jr. Death Investigation

from Portland Online - distributed to the press

Why has the community not been informed regarding the specifics of this case?

Historically, the Portland Police Bureau has allowed the Grand Jury to complete its
review of officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths before releasing the
specifics of the investigation. Because this process has taken much longer than the
norm, Chief Sizer is reviewing how and when we release information when there is a
strong community concern.

Why did officers initially contact Mr. Chasse?

Officers first noticed Mr. Chasse while they were responding to a different call.
They watched as he darted out into the street without looking. Officers thought he
may be hit by oncoming traffic and thought his behavior was odd. When they
observed him later, they believed he was urinating in public. As they approached
him, he ran.

Why did the officer chase Mr. Chasse?

At that point, officers believed he had committed a crime and were attempting to
stop him for that crime and to determine if he needed help. They did not know his
identity or where he lived to follow-up at a later time. In addition, frequently,
people who run from police, have warrants for their arrest.

Did officers tackle Mr. Chasse?

One officer used his forearm to push Mr. Chasse to the ground to end the foot
pursuit, which is consistent with Bureau training. As Mr. Chasse fell to the ground,
he unexpectedly rolled into the path of the officer. The officer then accidentally fell onto Mr. Chasse and rolled off. The Medical Examiner concluded that Mr. Chasse
received the injury that ultimately caused his death when the officer and Mr. Chasse
both fell to the ground. There is no evidence that Mr. Chasse received any other
injuries until officers begin CPR approximately 70 minutes later.

Did officers sit on Mr. Chasse?

There is no evidence to suggest that officers ever sat on Mr. Chasse.

Why did it take three officers to fight one man?

The Police Bureau trains to use multiple officers to arrest a combative suspect.
These techniques are widely taught around the country, and are designed to reduce
the likely of injury to the officers or the suspect. In this case, officers were
attempting to control his arms and legs, but were struggling to do so and called for
additional officers for assistance.

Did officers use the Taser and how many times did they Tase him?

Evidence clearly shows that the officer used the Taser in the Drive Stun Mode one
time. The Taser cycled four times, which means the officer attempted to use it four
times. During a combative situation in which many people are involved, officers will
cycle the Taser in an attempt to use it, but are not always successful in the
application. The physical evidence clearly shows that the Taser actually touched
Mr. Chasse’s body one time.

In Drive Stun mode the Taser is a pain compliance tool used to affect an arrest. The
Drive Stun mode does not lock muscle groups and does not use the probes. The
Taser was not used in the probe mode because of the close range in proximity to Mr.

Did the officers kick and punch Mr. Chasse?

One officer kicked Mr. Chasse after Mr. Chasse bit him and was attempting to bite
him again. Another officer inadvertently hit him as he was trying to get his arm
away from Mr. Chasse’s reach, but when Mr. Chasse attempted to bite him a
second time, he then intentionally hit him with a closed fist. The autopsy found that
neither of these strikes contributed to Mr. Chasse’s death.

According to the Bureau’s Directive on Force (1010.20), biting is defined as
aggressive physical resistance. Officers are authorized to use appropriate force to
overcome that resistance which includes baton, strikes, and kicks. Ultimately, the
officers’ use of force will be reviewed to determine if it was within Bureau policy.
The Medical Examiner has concluded that Mr. Chasse had no localized injures
consistent with an impact weapon or a physical strike.

What was AMR told regarding Mr. Chasse’s condition?

According to the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch), Medical personnel were advised
that Mr. Chasse had fought with police and at one point had been unconscious. The
Police Bureau is releasing all information related to what was told to medical
personnel. AMR personnel have refused to be interviewed by Portland Police

Why wasn’t Mr. Chasse transported to the hospital immediately?

The investigation found that the officers were told by AMR that Mr. Chasse’s vital
signs were within normal range. Records indicate that Mr. Chasse’s Blood Pressure
was 110/73, pulse 100 beats per minute, respiration rate 18-20 breaths per minute,
and his glucose level was normal. Mr. Chasse was combative with medical
personnel as they attempted to render aid.

It has been reported in the media that Mr. Chasse feared being transported by the police and at one point yelled out the word “No” repeatedly. Is this true?
Through the investigation detectives determined that Mr. Chasse became upset
because he believed medical personnel were taking his backpack. When he
understood they were not taking his property he stopped yelling.

Was Mr. Chasse examined in jail?

The investigation revealed that a jail nurse observed Mr. Chasse through a window,
but did not physically contact him because he was still combative.

Why wasn’t an ambulance called to transport Mr. Chasse from the jail to the hospital?

The officers did not receive any information from the Jail Nurse to suggest that
there was an urgency regarding his condition. The Jail contracts with Portland
Adventist Hospital for care of in-custody individuals, so officers routinely transport suspects to the hospital. Because there was no information that Mr. Chasse was medically unstable, and he was conscious and talking at the time he was placed in
the police car, officers began to transport him.

Did officers use any life-saving techniques?

As they approached the 33rd exit on the Banfield, Officers noticed that Mr. Chasse
was unconscious. They pulled over and began to administer CPR. A defibrillator
sales representative approached the officers and the officers allowed him to connect
the defibrillator. However, the defibrillator’s diagnostic told the officers not to
administer it.

How did Mr. Chasse sustain his injuries?

The Medical Examiner concluded that Mr. Chasse sustained broken ribs when Mr.
Chasse and the officer fell to the ground. Additional ribs were broken during the
process of CPR.

Were the officers CIT-certified?

All Portland Police Officers received 2 hours of CIT training during the 2004/2005
annual training. The officers involved in this incident were not CIT-certified, but it is difficult to say if that would have altered the result; Mr. Chasse fled before
officers were able to speak to him and then was fatally injured early on in the

How come officers didn’t know Mr. Chasse was mentally ill?

Officers observed Mr. Chasse behaving oddly, but did not have access to his medical
information at that moment. Officers did not know, for example, if Mr. Chasse was
impaired by drugs or alcohol. Individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol
can and do at times display behaviors similar to individual suffering from mental

Was this incident within policy and training guidelines?

As with any officer-involved shooting or in-custody death, this case will be
exhaustively reviewed through our Training Division, Internal Affairs Division and
ultimately, our Use of Force and Performance Review Board that includes citizen

There is a photo that has been published that clearly shows officers and medical
personnel just standing there and not rendering aid to Mr. Chasse. Why wasn’t anyone
attending to him at that time?

The photo shows that Mr. Chasse was on his side in the rescue position. In the
photo, 2 officers are standing with medical personnel and one officer is off to the
side. It is hard to determine from this photo what was occurring at that very
moment or the duration. All of Mr. Chasse’s vital signs had been checked by AMR
and the Fire Bureau had checked his glucose.

Jury Clears Police In Man's Death


A grand jury has cleared Portland police in the death of a 42-year-old man.

Forty-two-year-old James Chasse of Portland died on Sept. 17 after he suffered 16 broken ribs, including some that punctured a lung and caused internal bleeding. Details about the injuries were included in a state medical examiner's autopsy report released by his family.

A seven-member grand jury ruled unanimously Tuesday that it found no criminal wrongdoing.

One of the 30 witnesses called was William Brady, a former state medical examiner who now has a pathology practice and often testifies on behalf of the defense. Chasse's family requested that he be called to testify.

In separate press conferences Mayor Tom Potter apologized to Chasse's family and Police Chief Rosie Sizer called the death a "tragedy" for the victim, his family and police. (Read the police's in-custody death investigation results.)

Both said the city will push for better police training to manage the mentally ill and more funding for treatment.

Friends and family will be holding a candlelight memorial vigil for Chasse on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on Southwest Park Avenue.

D.A. statement on James Chasse grand jury verdict


Statement from D.A. Michael Schrunk on the grand jury's decision to not charge police in the death of a man who died in custody.

Today the Multnomah Grand Jury voted unanimously not to return criminal charges against any individual in connection with the death of James Chasse.

The Grand Jury heard testimony on five different days from the following 30 witnesses:

•Duane Bigoni
•Dr. William J. Brady
•Bret Burton
•Lynn Courtney
•Constance Doolan
•Tom Forsyth
•Patricia Gayman
•Mark Ginsberg
•Dr. Karen Gunson
•Cindy Halaas
•Tamara Hergert
•Thomas Hollenbeck
•Ela Howard
•Christopher Humphreys
•James Hunter
•William Koppy
•Diane Loughry
•Brian Malloy
•Kathleen Martinez
•Jamie Marquez
•Scott Montgomery
•Kyle Nice
•Jon Olson
•Troy Pahlke
•Benjamin Persyn
•Alireza Justin Soltani
•Rev. Randall Stuart
•Gary Szalay
•Carl Weldon
•Jason Worthington

The Grand Jury also reviewed exhibits, photographs and records that included Mr. Chasse’s extensive mental health history.

Attorneys and an investigator for the Chasse family were allowed to review all investigative material in the possession of the District Attorney’s Office and suggest any witnesses or evidence that should be heard before the Grand Jury. They suggested one witness, Dr. Brady, who was called. They were also permitted to review written definitions of possible criminal conduct in this matter that were given to the Grand Jury.

It is emphasized that today’s decision by the Grand Jury is a narrow one: whether any individual had criminal responsibility in Mr. Chasse’s tragic death.

District Attorney

Officers exonerated in Chasse's death


A grand jury in Multnomah County has decided not to return criminal charges against three officers involved in a case where a schizophrenic man they took into custody died.

James Chasse, 42, died Sept. 17 while the officers were transporting him to a local hospital. According to the medical examiner's ruling, he died as a result of a broad-based, blunt force trauma to his chest.

Despite the findings, the medical examiner ruled Chasse's death accidental. Chasse's family and witnesses questioned that ruling, which led to a decision to put the case before a grand jury.

In the autopsy report, it stated that Chasse broke 16 ribs, including some that punctured a lung and caused massive internal bleeding. Toxicology tests showed he had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

The grand jury heard from 30 witnesses and also reviewed exhibits, photographs and records, including Chasse's mental health history. They were instructed to decide whether any individual had criminal responsibility in his death.

According to the Multnomah County District Attorney, a public inquest will not be held.

Mayor Tom Potter spoke to the media on Tuesday, saying he wished to apologize to the Chasse family.

"The Chasse family has endured much heartache since James Chasse died and for this, I am truly sorry," he said. "I personally feel the need to apologize when anyone dies in police custody, regardless of the circumstances, and I apologize to the Chasse family."

Potter also promised to do everything in his power to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

"With the grand jury review complete, the Police Bureau will launch an Internal Affairs investigation that goes beyond the scope of a grand jury's investigation, determining whether the officers' actions were within bureau procedures and training standards," he said.

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer spoke Tuesday as well at a separate press conference. She first expressed regret about Chasse's death on behalf of herself and the Portland Police Bureau.

"From all accounts, Mr. Chasse's life held great promise, involved many years of anguish and was extinguished in a way that no family could ever want, and (in a way that) the officers involved neither anticipated or desired," she said. "This incident has clearly left the Chasse family bereft and angry, the officers involved devastated and members of our community concerned."

Sizer then talked about what the Portland Police Bureau is planning to do in the future in light of Chasse's death.

"The Police Bureau is in the process of developing new policy regarding our interactions with emergency medical personnel and is looking at how we can provide crisis intervention training to more of our personnel," she said. "Additionally, the Police Bureau will be working with the Deputy City Auditor in an analysis of use of force incidents that should be addressed, whether through policies, supervision or training."

Sizer also brought up the reaction to comments she made a couple of weeks ago about officers and their dealings with the mentally ill.

"Two weeks ago, I made comments about the burden police officers bear for gaps in the mental health system," she said. "Some have suggested that these remarks were an attempt to shift blame. I assure you that is not the case, but the availability and quality of services to the mentally ill in our community provides an important backdrop to frequency and quality of their contact with police officers."

Sizer went on to outline some of the statistics surrounding arrests where force is used and the percent of time that police use force to take a mentally ill person into custody.

"Portland police officers arrest roughly 38,000 people each year, she said. "In 2005, Portland police officers used force to affect the arrest of subjects 5 percent of the time. PPB officers take roughly 1,000 people into custody a year on civil holds pursuant to psychological assessment at a hospital. In 2005, Portland police officers used force 2 percent of the time while taking people into custody pursuant to a civil hold for a psychological assessment."

Reaction to grand jury findings in death of James Chasse

from Portland Online, "Mayor Potter's Perspective

The following is a statement I (Tom Potter) released to the media today (10/17) after hearing about the grand jury findings in the death of James Chasse. I would like to hear what you think.

"The Chasse family has endured much heartache since James Chasse died, and for this I am truly sorry. I personally feel the need to apologize when anyone dies in police custody regardless of the circumstances, and I apologize to the Chasse family.

The grand jury has spent three weeks looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of James Chasse, and has found that these officers were not criminally negligent. The District Attorney has also determined that no public inquest is necessary.

I am committed to do everything in my power to prevent future in-custody deaths. I know the community wants answers to what happened, how it can be prevented in the future – and I want the same answers.

I want the community to know that there are a number of steps now underway to find those answers.

With the grand jury review complete, the Police Bureau will launch an internal affairs investigation that goes beyond the scope of the grand jury’s investigation, determining whether the officers’ actions were within bureau procedures and training standards.

Chief Rosie Sizer has begun reviewing the Police Bureau’s training policies and procedures in regards to people exhibiting unusual or erratic behavior or certain medical conditions, and how Portland Police respond in those situations. Chief Sizer will include citizens in the review process to ensure community concerns and issues are included in any changes we must make.

The City Auditor’s Office has appointed a group to review and analyze data on all incidents where force was used by a bureau officer, and how these incidents escalated to the point where force was needed. They will be reviewing existing data for the bureau as a whole, and statistics on individual officers. I want to see how their recommendations can provide greater protections for the community, as well as officers.

Tomorrow I am introducing a resolution, co-sponsored with Commissioners Leonard and Saltzman, that will create a Human Relations Commission, an independent body charged with advocating for the rights of all Portlanders, fostering diversity and investigating bias and discrimination anywhere in the city. Answering questions like those raised by this death will be part of the charge of this commission.

I also have spoken with Senators Avel Gordly and Ben Westlund, and with Chair Diane Linn and Chair-elect Ted Wheeler, and we are jointly forming an independent committee to improve how our local justice system and mental health system are working together.

It is not acceptable when anyone in our community who is struggling with mental illness is left to wander Portland streets instead of receiving the help they desperately need, and I don’t believe a jail cell is the right place to help mentally ill people deal with their problems.

My commitment to the Chasse family, to the Police Bureau and to all Portlanders is that we will use this tragedy to improve how our mentally ill are handled by our police, by our jails, by our medical professionals and the mental health community."